Interview with Dolan Morgan
1/Oak-handled umbrellas, bare-knuckle boxing, a population crippled by loans, and a burgeoning free market economy–something about “Investment Banking in Reverse” brings to mind the US in the late 1800s. Can you tell us how time and setting figure in the story?
“Investment Banking in Reverse” proposes a future wherein the banking and loan system is the only institution to survive societal collapse. The typical post-apocalyptic conceit is that characters will wander around the useless remnants of a forgotten world, revealing something or other along the way, but I wanted to twist that conceit by still making the characters ultimately beholden to APR and mounting debt, even though the means to repay this debt have been largely destroyed. I wondered what a highly mechanized and thoroughly modern economy would look like in the hands of a society thrown hundreds of years into the past by calamity. Whereas in many sci-fi stories of this ilk the flora and fauna mutate and become monstrous, in this story it is the banking system that mutates. I wondered in what ways the people of this world might utilize the now defunct leftovers of our lives littering the setting, wholesale stashes of umbrellas, concert tickets, washing machines, in order to combat their poverty.
2/You begin “Investment Banking in Reverse” with absurd humor, but ultimately rely on tragedy to up the ante. Do you find that the story’s satirical edge is amplified by that departure?
The concept lends itself to a lot of humor–there’s plenty of room for language play, especially in the places where religion commingles with the banks in an absurd attempt at rebooting science. However, the tragedy inherent to the topic is inborn and inescapable. This story was written in advance of the housing crisis, when there were only these kind of lingering aromas of rot, nothing concrete. At the time, the idea of our finance system being dangerously out of whack seemed like fun fare for fiction, but it has, as we now know, turned out to be far more realistic than I could have guessed. As our economy rebuilds itself, the final tragedy/joke of the story still rings true, both individually and for the nation: that debt is the official badge of citizenry, that you can’t exist, at least not officially, without owing.
3/If you had to fistfight someone to pay off a debt, who would you fight? Further, who would win?
If I could erase a debt by winning fist fights, I’d try to scuffle with someone like a baby, no more than a year old. I don’t particularly like children, especially babies, and my chances of winning would presumably be higher in this case. Ideally, the baby would be person-size, say roughly 6 ft–for two reasons: 1) this will give the fight the appearance of being fair, and 2) enlarging the baby will make more obvious how grotesque its features are, as if I were fighting some kind of atrophied and shaved sea-lion, hopefully rendering it less sympathetic to any onlookers or spectators, thus protecting me from community backlash. Rather than the headline, “Man Punches Infant for Money,” it would read “Hero Accepts Reward for Vanquishing Monster Baby.”
4/Sum up your work in apt in five words: go!
Re-finance your original sin today!
Dolan Morgan’s story, “Investment Banking in Reverse,” can be seen in the first print issue of apt, which can be purchased here.